U.S. Court ruled against legal battle that accuses U.S. companies of providing software and machinery to South African apartheid government.
After a 12 year legal battle to charge International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) and Ford Motor Co. (FM) for aiding the apartheid government, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled against the Khulumani Support Group’s claim this week. Khulumani national director, Majorie Jobson says that they will appeal the court ruling.
Since 2002, Khulumani has been fighting this case and resubmitted their complaint on August 8. Khulumani alleges that IBM and Ford provided software and machinery to the apartheid regime. IBM created software that allowed the government to racially categorize South Africans and provided hardware as well as maintenance for computer systems for the South African Defense Force Headquarters. Ford built militarized vehicles that were used to patrol South African townships.
Apartheid victims sued under the Alien Tort Statue, written in 1789, which the high court ruled typically does not apply to conduct beyond U.S. borders. Presiding Judge Shira Scheindlin said that the two corporations could not be sued in U.S. courts for their actions internationally.
The judge referenced earlier court rulings for similar court cases over corporate actions abroad. In 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Shell company accused of facilitating torture and murder of protestors in Ogoni, Nigeria in the 1990s. Scheindlin dismissed the case due to the 2013 precedent.
The group plans on pursuing legal actions in South Africa as well.